President Trump on Thursday moved to freeze $27.4 billion worth of government programs in the last week of his presidency using a budget maneuver called rescission.
Under the 1974 Budget and Impoundment Control Act, the president can request that Congress rescind, or wind back budget authority over certain programs. While Congress considers the request, the programs can be frozen for up to 45 days, at which point the request expires if Congress does not act.
In a letter to congressional leadership, Trump specifically requested 73 cutbacks to the 2021 federal budget. The 73 proposed rescissions largely align with the annual budget proposal Trump has set out, which proposed extreme cuts to domestic programs. Congress roundly rejected the cuts each year.
The letter asked leaders in the House and Senate to impound funds from almost every Cabinet-level agency including the Environmental Protection Agency. The request also included cuts from the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Peace Corps and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars among a slew of others.
Trump had signed the $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in December, but had indicated that he would make requests for “wasteful items” to be cut.
The spending package included coronavirus relief that doled out $600 stimulus checks to Americans.
“I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” said Trump at the time. “I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.”
Congressional Democrats were quick to reject the proposal Thursday.
“President Trump’s proposed rescissions attack a broad swath of critical programs that help make life better for Americans and sustain our leadership around the world,” said House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), noting targeted cuts for renewable energy, small financial institutions, and international food and vaccine aid.
“Can you think of anything more immoral?” she asked.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, said the cuts were an attempt by Trump to inflict damage.
“These rescissions are filled with damaging and irrational cuts to programs critical in the fight against COVID-19, climate change, and strengthening America’s global leadership,” he said.
But with just days left in his administration, the rescission request is likely to do little more than temporarily delay programs.
Note: I’m told Trump and Director Olsen are good friends and she should be able to protect the agency, as she is one of his unfailing supporters.